Already tired of the clothes you packed, and you just arrived two days ago? I get it. It’s nearly impossible to think that a small rectangular suitcase can hold enough clothes to satisfy a range of moods, looks, and varying weather patterns.
Don’t stress. Just go shopping because as good shoppers understand, you don’t get to know a city only through its monuments, but through its boutiques! Ok, yes, try to fit in a visit to the Centre Pompidou or Notre Dame, but to get a real sense of a city’s style and creative energy you need to hit the shops.
Not the chain shops (though don’t miss taking a stroll through the clothing department, especially for kids, at the very French chain, Monoprix), but in the independent, one of a kind concept shops that offer more than fashion, but lifestyle.
There you can find the pulse on local styles, discover up & coming indie designers and collectives, sip a flat white while your friend tries on a pair of shoes, and skim the latest issue of Apartamento before buying unique ceramic dishes with your new skirt.
For more than a century Paris was a required stop to get the chicest and most elegant clothing and accessories to make those at home envious, and let’s be honest, that idea really continues today. So here is a must visit list to get started you shopping…
When Merci opened its doors in 2009 in a former wallpaper factory on Boulevard Beaumarchais, it transformed a neighborhood and helped open up a flood of creative and independent shops and restaurants throughout the formerly quiet 3rd arrondissement. Merci was founded by Marie-France Cohen, a retail innovator who had earlier started the upscale children’s clothing line, Bonpoint.
Not only was the physical space revolutionary for Paris, but her concept behind the shop was too; It is charitable. After expenses, all profits go to support a specific charitable cause, thus the name, Merci (Thank you.) So you can feel a bit better about spending those extra euros!
Merci offers capsule collections by your favorite brands including Isabel Marant, and Forte-Forte, a sleek but small men’s department, beautifully curated home furnishings department with an emphasis on contemporary furniture with an ethnic edge, dishware, glassware, and lighting. They also offer their own line of various products, the most popular of which must certainly be their soft, linen sheets dyed in perfectly muted shades that make you want to hop into bed. And they just launched a line of bathrobes in the same soft linen.
Yes! Easier to fit into that suitcase for sure. The most interesting part of the shop however is the rotating installations in the massive entryway. Everything from live animals to an in-store gym, to hanging books, vegetable gardens and a pajama party, this uber-creative space generates a unique atmosphere that you won’t see anywhere else. Do note: There are two restaurants and 1 café, so plan to take your time and stay awhile!
- 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais 75003
If funky and preppy had a baby, Maison Kitsune would be it. Part brand, part music label and part retail outlet Kitsune is inspired by the craftsmanship and creativity found in France and Japan, with an underlying chill vibe.
Launched in 2002 by with the idea of uniting their mutual passions of music and fashion into a one of a kind brand experience, Kitsune is synonymous for smart street wear and a particular urban lifestyle that centers around cutting edge music.
The first store opened in Tokyo followed by three Paris stores, including one with a café. The store is geared more towards men, though their women’s collection is developing nicely. Button down shirts, good fitting jeans and t-shirts that you won’t wear to the gym, boarding school rebel blazers and letterman-style jackets and soft, cashmere sweaters all reek of cool attitude.
- 52 rue Richelieu 75001
- 38 rue Madame 75006
- 18 Boulevard des Filles du Calvaire, 75003
A great place to capture that effortless chic, Parisienne style is French Trotters, which has two shops in Paris in the 12th and 3rd arrondissements.
French Trotters (French meets globetrotters), was started in 2005 by two friends, Carole and Clarent, with the idea of creating a retail space that would reflect the eclectic experience of their travels to cities like New York, Tokyo and Stockholm, and feature some of the brands and designers whom they had discovered on their trips, including, Filippa K, Acne and Engineered Garments who were not yet present in Paris.
With a focus on well made, chic yet laid-back looks from other leading labels like APC, Les Prairies de Paris, and Opening Ceremony, you cannot go wrong. Good fitting jeans, slouchy sweaters that actually make you look sexy, dresses that can be worn to work and out for dinner. Their larger space in the Marais offers more of a lifestyle setting, with magazines and accessories, and a larger men’s section.
More recently they launched their own line of ready to wear clothing under the French Trotters label, that adheres closely to their brand ethos and for the moment it is only carried in a handful of shops so this could make a perfect piece to bring back home that will remind you of your trip to Paris for years to come
- 30 rue Charonne 75012
- 128 rue du Vieille du Temple 75003
You might want to stay the afternoon in Marche Noir just soaking up the cool, African inspired vibes and stunning décor. And thanks to their in-house café, you can. Along the back of the shop, soft sand colored walls are shaped to resemble the mud hut architecture found in places like Mali, while other walls are covered in blue and white geometric patterns found in much of their textiles.
With the large palm trees scattered around, hand carved wooden furniture and macramé chandeliers, it is the mix and match aesthetics of Africa, Asia, Anglo, French, vintage and contemporary that is so strong and so inspiring here.
Opened in 2016 by Amah Ayivi, who started the groovy vintage inspired shop at Comptoir General, Marche Noir offers an selection of old school American vintage dresses, skirts and tops for women, jeans and classic French cotton work jackets dyed in deeps shades of indigo for men, as well as a range of capsule collections by contemporary designers like Tucker from NYC who is inspired by vintage textiles, and an in-house range of simple shirts, skirts and jumpsuits made from beautiful African wax print fabrics.
Prices are surprisingly honest and accessible, and for a shop that truly transports you to a fantasy world, it remains welcoming and friendly. A must visit.
- 18 rue Perrée 75003
The Broken Arm:
Just a stone’s throw from Marche Noir is The Broken Arm, a café-and-fashion boutique started by three friends in 2013. The café is light and airy, with the required green foliage and locally roasted coffee beans, while the multi-brand boutique feels and bit more serious and restrained and very fashion forward.
Women’s collections include uber cool brands like Lemaire, Vetements, and Jacquemus, while for men there is a selection of pieces by Russian designer, Gosha Rubchinsky, Comme des Garcons, and Raf Simons, among others. In addition to the fashion are a small selection of rare books, cultish magazines and decorative objects. The Broken Arm is for those in the know and with the funds.
- 12 rue Perrée 75003
Right in the center of Paris in the recently remade Les Halles shopping area, L’Exception, opened in 2016, feels full of positive energy and excitement as a new space should. All full of light beech and plywood cabinets and hangers contrasted with geometric brass supports, at L’Exception you can find men’s and women’s fashion, shoes, accessories, books, and my favorite, the Nail O’Matic vending machine that offers a range of candy colored polishes for low prices.
High end labels like Kenzo and are mixed with independent brands like French Trotters, April 77 and Sessun. Required indie reading like Kinfolk, Drift and O32 are there to skim while you wait for your espresso at the attached café.
Side Note: Don’t miss a visit to Sept-Cinq, a smaller shop just next door which features a range of mostly French handmade items including lots of fantastic jewelry (think lightweight, feminine, gold) and small purses, and notebooks.
- 24 rue Berger 75001
And if you want even more!
Matières à réflexion is a small multi-brand shop famous for their handmade bags which make an ideal present to self or others. They also have a small but excellent selection of clothing and jewelry by up & coming and most French designers and makers.
- 19 rue du Poitou 75003
Front de Mode is a self described creative lifestyle store started by designer Sakina M’Sa with the idea of featuring experimental designers interested in sustainable fashion. There is a real sense of indie spirit here in the diversity of styles and brands. The lovely perfumes by Heloise de V that capture the beauty of the South of France in a scent, are also worth a stop.
- 43 rue Volta 75003
Pops of color and cheery south of France living come through in the Autour du Monde Bensimon concept-shop that hosts Scandi and French design objects, furniture, clothing, & accessories and created by French brand Bensimon, famous for the Keds like canvas kick-off beach shoes every French person owns.
- 54 rue du Seine 75006